GRAMMY BNA Q&A: SAMARA JOY

Linger Awhile, the second album and major-label debut by Bronx-born singer Samara Joy, has been nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. That’s certainly a milestone in the burgeoning career of this gifted 23-year-old artist, who recorded her self-titled 2021 debut LP while still in college. But the critical acclaim Joy has quickly accrued—she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019 and was named Best New Artist by Jazz Times last year—has vaulted her into contention for the same honor on music’s biggest stage.


How did you go about conceiving your Verve debut, Linger Awhile? Is it a reflection of your schooling, what you learned in competitions or a step into something new?
Linger Awhile is a reflection of all that I learned while experiencing so many firsts in my life—first tour in my own name, first time leading a band, etc. While I’m still in the middle of many new developments in my life, this album reflects the beginning of a long journey in growth as an artist.

What went into the selection of material? Were you looking for a balance of the familiar, like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “’Round Midnight” and “Misty,” and the obscure—writing your own lyrics for Fats Navarro’s “Nostalgia,” for example—or do you see a connective tissue between all the songs?
The selection of material is purely based on what I’m listening to and learning at the time. I also keep in mind that there are a few songs in the jazz canon that are familiar to the audience, so I like the balance of choosing well known songs that I enjoy singing as well as exposing people to something new, e.g., “Nostalgia” and Jon Hendricks’ lyrics to “’Round Midnight.”

You come from a line of gospel singers. How much was jazz a part of your youth, and
when did it become a calling?
Jazz wasn’t really a part of my childhood. I was introduced to it toward the end of high school, and my undergrad experience in jazz studies was the first time I had really delved into the music. Even while I was in the program, I didn’t view the time I had there as a means to a career. I was new and I wanted to soak up all the knowledge that I could while being in the perfect environment to do so.

We usually don’t hear about TikTok having an impact on a jazz performer, so you stand out in that regard. Can you explain your approach to social media and what it has done for your career?
My approach to social media this year has simply been to do what feels natural. I’m not the kind of person who posts pictures all the time, but singing in videos felt natural. Getting more followers wasn’t the goal; sharing was. I shared and people liked it, so they shared with others, which has led to some wonderful interactions in person as well as with celebrities online. I’m glad that socials have the power to help you find your audience all over the world, in addition to the one in your community.

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